In season 19, episode 1 of Dr Who the Fifth Doctor visits the settlement Castrovalva, not knowing that the Master has laid a trap by tweaking around with the layout of the place. The episode was obviously inspired by the works of M.C.Escher with obvious references like the name and outwards look of the castle, similar to the lithograph of the same name.

The lithograph "Castrovalva", next to an image of the castle from Dr Who S19E1

While the inside seems to be inspired by the painting Belvedere

The lithograph "Belvedere next to an image of an archway from Dr Who S19E1

The physics of the place also takes on more Escher-like qualities over the episode.

One thing that is odd, however, is a group of washerwomen that always seems to reside in the square at the centre of the castle.

A group of women washing from Dr Who S19E1

Their manner of dressing, and the fact that they have a whole side story dedicated to them, where an important cabinet gets stolen from the Doctor to be used by them as a washbasin, makes me think they also was inspired by a painting, probably by Esher. I have no idea which one that would be though.

Anyone that has any insight into this ?

  • 1
    Do you mean besides looking like an identically-themed or styled match to Escher’s Belvedere woman of the upper balcony? Jan 8, 2022 at 19:30
  • 2
    @SillybutTrue Yes. there are many similar people in Escher's paintings, especially in his later works like Belvedere, but none of them are washing which seems to be an important activity for the women in the story. Jan 8, 2022 at 20:04
  • She’s gotta wash her clothes sometime, tho. Jan 8, 2022 at 20:12

1 Answer 1


Another one of M. C. Escher's best known works (comparable in fame to "Belvedere") is "Waterfall," which features a woman hanging her washing out to dry.


The woman is obviously not a central feature of this lithograph, but she is thematically related to the main element in the image, the water. I don't know of any other major Escher works that feature washerwomen, so this is probably the most likely source for the allusion in "Castrovalva"—if it actually is an allusion.

  • That is of course possible, but the movie paints it up like a scene with the women, the fountain, and a little girl playing with a ball. It looks to me like they are referencing a specific artwork, not just water in general. Good find either way. Jan 10, 2022 at 14:28
  • Another visual element associated with the washerwomen's court in "Castrovalva" is the black gnomon in the center. It certainly looks Escher-esque (it reminds me of "Another World" or "The Dream," both shown here: ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/… ), but I don't think that arrow shape is actually drawn from any specific Escher work.
    – Buzz
    Jan 10, 2022 at 21:43

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